CINCINNATI — A judge ruled today that an art gallery and its director must stand trial later this month on obscenity charges for displaying five sexually graphic photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe.
Dennis Barrie and the Contemporary Arts Center already were scheduled to go on trial Sept. 24, each on one misdemeanor charge of using children in material involving nudity, also works by Mapplethorpe. The obscenity case will be heard the same day.
In his ruling today, Hamilton County Municipal Judge David Albanese rejected a defense request to dismiss the obscenity charge. Defense lawyers had contended that the pictures were a legitimate art exhibition and immune from Ohio's obscenity law.
Albanese said that is for the trial judge to decide.
The judge today also granted a prosecution request to limit the obscenity case to the five photographs described in the indictment against Barrie and the center.
He rejected defense claims that the jury had to consider all of the photographs in the exhibition--including shots of flowers and sculpture--because the show was a survey of Mapplethorpe's life.
"A photograph makes an immediate impression," Albanese said. "The court finds that each photograph has a separate identity."
He said prosecutors need only prove that one of the photographs is obscene to win a conviction.
Among the photographs at issue in the case are separate shots of a boy and a girl with their genitals exposed.
The maximum penalty for each charge is a $1,000 fine and six months in jail for Barrie and a $5,000 fine for the Contemporary Arts Center.